The BBC listed “Mad Men” at number two on their 100 Greatest TV Series of the 21 Century. At first, it might be surprising to see “Mad Men” listed above “Breaking Bad,” which was listed at number three, followed closely by “Game of Thrones” at number five. However, the reason for the show’s high spot is likely due to the writers’ creativity.
The show follows both the advertising industry of the 1960s and the life of the charismatic, self-made man Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm. Hamm manages to get the audience to both hate him and fall in love with him over and over again with every sip of whisky and puff of his cigarette.
The show is praised for its authenticity of history where the misogyny that we now know encapsulated the 1960s impacts how the characters act. Men are in positions of power and let that influence how they treat the women in their workplace. However, as time passes, the show starts to depict the changing societal movements of the 60s. Characters react to the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., capturing the cultural zeitgeist of these historical events.
Likewise, the show also represents the progression of societal norms throughout the 60s. For example, a character swears and it is censored early in the show, but later in that season, the same character swears but is not censored. The show also touches on subjects of homosexuality in the 60s as well as mental health. One storyline involves a character coming to terms with one of his friends forgetting who he was due to electric shock therapy. The female characters, who were originally sidelined, break workplace norms and are eventually recognized for all of the hard work they have contributed to the advertising industry.
By the time “Mad Men” concluded its final season, the show received 16 Emmys for its successful historical portrayals.